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To Heal, To Comfort and To Care

Our Commitment to Competent and Compassionate Care

Modern medicine offers many marvelous cures and benefits. But even with the advances of science and technology, our ability to cure is limited. It is not always possible to find a cure for every illness. In some cases, a physical cure may be possible, but involve treatments that are too burdensome from the patients perspective. In other cases, a treatment might offer some benefit, but not enough benefit to outweigh its burdens. Every patient's situation is different. People have different needs and experience different limits to what they can endure. Yet, competent and compassionate care should always be provided, even when a physical cure is no longer an option.

We believe that every human life is sacred and valuable. Each person possesses a basic dignity that deserves our deepest respect and reverence. We believe we must provide comfort, care and support to the suffering. We also believe that dying is a part of the mystery of life. This characterizes the healing mission of Ascension Health and the Catholic Church. Sharing in that mission, we are committed to providing quality health care that attempts to meet your spiritual, emotional, social and physical needs.

It is because of our commitment to you and to these values that we offer you this guide. We hope it will help you make important decisions about your healthcare. We encourage you and your loved ones to discuss these matters with each other and your caregivers.

Talking About Your Needs

Medical, spiritual and emotional needs can change from day to day. It is important for you to tell your caregivers when your needs have changed; to tell them when you are not satisfied with your care or treatment. This will enable them to respond more appropriately to your needs. When others must make decisions for you, they also should tell your caregivers when your needs have changed. They should make sure all your needs are being met satisfactorily.

Many people may be involved in making arrangements for your continued care—loved ones, doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains and many other professionals. It takes time for new information to get to the right people. Sometimes you may have to repeat yourself—to enable your caregivers to work together more effectively for your benefit.

Comfort and Pain Management

Pain associated with a serious illness can be disabling and often frightening. Depression and anxiety also can accompany pain and illness. There are many different kinds of medications and treatments that can provide relief for these conditions. By telling your caregivers how you feel from day to day, they can respond more effectively to your needs. They can provide you with pain relief, comfort and other supports.

It is the duty and the desire of your caregivers to respond with skill and compassion to your pain, feelings and concerns. Don't be afraid or embarrassed to talk to them about these matters. Your privacy will be respected. When your symptoms are managed well, you will be able to attend to other things that are important to you.

Making Treatment Decisions

Your doctors, nurses and other caregivers form a team. They will discuss treatment options with you and make recommendations. They will explain to you the expected benefits, burdens and risks of treatment, and any reasonable alternatives. You have the right to promote your own spiritual and physical well being, according to your needs and understanding. You are free to choose a recommended treatment.

You are also free to refuse a recommended treatment or stop a treatment, even if this decision might indirectly hasten death. For example, the treatment could be too painful. Or, you might refuse a treatment because it goes against your religious beliefs and values. Should you decide to refuse or stop a treatment—whether CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), a life-support device, a medication or surgery—your health care team will still provide you with quality care and comfort.

When Others Must Decide

You may have concerns about the kind of care and treatment you would receive if you were no longer able to make decisions. It is important for your caregivers to know your wishes, should you lose decision-making capacity. Understanding your wishes could be critical for making future treatment decisions and plans. We recommend that you discuss your wishes with your doctor and loved ones.

We also encourage you to write down your wishes in the form of an advanced directive. You may choose to appoint another person to make decisions for you. Or, you may prefer that the healthcare team turns to your loved ones to make those decisions. In any case, your caregivers will do their best to respect your wishes and to make sure you receive quality care and comfort. We have people who can answer questions and provide advanced directive materials for making your wishes clear to others. They also can tell you about other services we can offer, or about services that are available through other agencies. Ask your doctor or nurse.


Within every person's life there are many kinds of loss, which can cause grieving. The following are a few examples: the death of a loved one; loss of independence or a new disability; moving into a nursing home; news of a diagnosis that may result in death. You may experience one or more of these losses at once. We know that you and your loved ones need emotional and spiritual support and encouragement during these times.

Social Work and Spiritual Care are two of the services available to help you. You can feel free to express to them your fears, sorrow or anger. Whenever you need someone to listen or to help you work through some feelings or a problem, ask for a chaplain or social worker. Tell any member of your health care team about your needs. They are all here to care for you.


It is natural to experience a sense of hopelessness when dealing with a loss. We believe that no situation is ever completely hopeless. There is always room for hope, even when there is no room for a cure. To have hope means to expect certain good things. You should expect: to receive compassionate care; to obtain good pain management; to receive emotional and spiritual support for both you and your loved ones; to be cared for by caring and skillful people who try to understand and respond to your needs.

We believe that illness, suffering, loss and death are human experiences worthy of reverence and hope. We are committed to comforting those who suffer. We pledge ourselves, our energies and our resources to provide you with competent and compassionate care.

This document was prepared for you by physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, respiratory therapists, administrators and other caring professionals at Ascension Health.

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